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Sunday 4 December 2016

Women take over Abbey to stage 'Waking The Feminists' protest

Waking The Feminists meeting at the Abbey Theatre
Waking The Feminists meeting at the Abbey Theatre
Aoibheann McCaul, Susan Loughnane and Donna Patrice
Lian Bell and Kate O’Toole

Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep has rallied behind Waking The Feminists.

The campaign ignited in the wake of the launch of the Abbey Theatre's programme of commemoration for the centenary of 1916, which features just one play written by a woman.

Yesterday, hundreds of female actors, directors and theatre workers gathered at the National Theatre to vent their frustration and call for equality.

Fair City's Aoibheann McCaul and former Love/Hate actress Susan Loughnane were among those who attended the public meeting.

Apologised

Out-going director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach Mac Conghail, apologised on behalf of the theatre for overlooking female writers.

"I was thinking in microscopic detail," Mac Conghail told the audience.

"I was thinking about the legacy of 1916. I was thinking about war stories, about poverty, about housing, about disenfranchisement... I wasn't thinking about gender balance. I did not look up. I failed to check my privilege. And I regret that."

However, a spokesperson for The Abbey added that they would not be amending their Waking The Nation line-up.

The Waking The Feminists campaign was kick-started by theatre maker Lian Bell who took to social media to voice her grievances with the Abbey's gender-biased programming.

"I just thought f*** it," she said simply. Since then, the movement has gathered momentum.

Tickets for the meeting sold out in 10 minutes. Those who didn't manage to get a seat settled in the bar and watched the action unfold on widescreen TVs. Chaired by Senator Ivana Bacik, the meeting saw 30 Irish female theatre makers, including Amy Conroy, Oonagh Murphy and Derbhle Crotty, take to the stage to tell their stories

Pinned

The event ended like all good shows do - with a foot-tapping musical number - Aretha Franklin's 'Respect'.

Waving signs reading 'Easterogen Rising' and with badges proudly pinned to their chest, the audience punched the air and cheered loudly.

The campaign hopes to achieve economic parity for all working in the theatre, championing women artists and sustained policy for inclusion.

This is sorely needed - since 2006, 12.3pc of the plays shown on the Abbey stage have been by women.

Organiser Dairne O'Sullivan described the atmosphere inside the auditorium as electric.

"There was such an overwhelming feeling of empowerment," she said.

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